President, Hamilton County Young Democrats
The historic role of American progressives is to promote redistribution measures that enhance the standard of living and quality of life for the disadvantaged. Affirmative action was one such redistribution measure that surfaced in the heat of battle in the 1960s among those fighting for racial and later gender equality.
Every redistribution measure is a compromise with a concession from the caretakers of American prosperity, which includes big business and big government. Affirmative action was one such compromise and in the American political system, where the powers that be turn a skeptical eye toward any program aimed at economic redistribution, progressives must secure whatever redistribution measures they can.
The highly publicized University of Michigan decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding affirmative action, keeps us on a path toward racial equality in this country. By upholding the notion that diversity is a compelling state interest, the court sent a broad message to the White House and Congress that equal opportunity in education and other institutions is an American value rooted in the rights guaranteed to all citizens.
Diverse student bodies, diverse officer corps and diverse cadres of corporate leaders are all critical to this country's interests. However, we still have a long way to go. The prevailing discriminatory practices during the '60s, whose targets were working people, women and people of color, were shameful. Thus an enforceable race-based and later gender-based affirmative action policy was the best possible compromise and concession.
We need to improve and update our policies on affirmative action. I favor a broader reaching, class-based affirmative action in principle that takes into account all disadvantaged individuals in our society, not just women and minorities.
Progressives should view the current policies on affirmative action as neither a major solution to poverty nor a sufficient means to equality. We should continue to fight to break down the barriers that create disadvantages to people in our society.
President, Blue Chip Young Republicans
You cannot break what is already shattered. Affirmative action, as so many people have come to realize, is completely out of control. It has become a politically-correct monster that is rampaging throughout America -- much to the shame of men like Martin Luther King Jr.
What was once the mechanism for moving to an America that judges character, not skin color, has become a political tool of division and a bureaucrat's measuring stick for response and retaliation.
The Supreme Court joined in the chorus of School House Rock's "American Melting Pot" by recognizing that diversity is a good thing and should be valued. However, the quota systems that place more value on any one group makes, as Orwell says, "some animals more equal than others." While quota and point systems make the bean counters in bureaucracies happy, they do little to achieve real movement toward focusing the nation's attention away from skin color and in fact draw more attention to such shallowness.
In moving to a deeper appreciation of each other and accepting diversity as a common value, we as a nation can develop a dialogue for the future -- and that does not bode well for those Democrats who succeed through political divisiveness and typical class warfare. When groups do not need "champions" or "saviors" but make their voices heard through common institutions -- be they civic, religious or commercial -- they are no longer enslaved to one party but will be truly free and self-determining.
The policy shift brought about by the Supreme Court is but an echo of the original Emancipation Proclamation -- but it will put America back on track to creating an environment in which diversity is a natural part of the American scene.
Member of the Cincinnati Libertarian Party
In the history of the United States there have been many attempts to end discrimination. The Declaration of Independence asserts that "all men are created equal," but in its initial practice this applied only to white propertied males. Numerous attempts have been made to right this obvious wrong. Among these are the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery; the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under the law; the 15th Amendment, which forbids racial discrimination in access to voting; and the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. These and other attempts by the government did not, of course, end discrimination, and thus was born "affirmative action."
Affirmative action is an attempt by the government to redress its history of racial and sexual discrimination by attempting to level the playing field of minorities and women, giving them special consideration when hiring or in admissions to higher institutions of learning. Affirmative action uses discrimination in its attempt to end the effects of discrimination.
Affirmative action is more accurately described as discriminative action. When a person applying to a college is awarded 20 points simply for having non-white skin, you may label this "achieving diversity," but this is clearly a racist policy and therefore unconstitutional. How the Supreme Court missed this basic fact in upholding the recent case in Michigan defies logic and common sense.
If Michigan's admissions policy is designed to level the playing field for the poor and underprivileged, aren't they in fact discriminating against poor and underprivileged whites? What of the effects of accepting applicants based on their race and not their SAT scores when they meet with failure at an institution for which they do not have the academic skill? Isn't a diploma from a lower-level college preferable to dropping out of an elite university?
Ending discrimination is a worthy goal, but let's not take certain portions of the Constitution to the shredder to achieve this goal.
Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.